Guest Column: Should Choices Natural Market move to Seventh Street?

August 19, 2009

Editor’s note: The following guest column by Karen King—who, along with her husband Bob King, owns Choices Natural Market at 6551 E. Riverside Blvd., in Rockford—is from an e-mail that has been circulating in attempts to gauge support for moving the store to Seventh Street. Choices Natural Market was the winner of the inaugural Winnebago County Green Business Award in the small- to medium-sized business category in 2008.

By Karen King

Owner, Choices Natural Market

As you know, Bob and I have been looking for a new space to move our store into for quite some time now. We were supposed to be moving to a new building near PEAK Fitness. However, since we must move by May 31, 2010, I am concerned that a new building will not be ready in time since it has not even been started and the financing has not yet been completed. I am also very concerned about the cost. We are looking at a few different options, and really need your help to figure out what our next move should be. If we stay in the area we are in now, we cannot offer all that we want because the rent is so high that we cannot afford the size of space we need.

We would like to have a bakery, café, juice bar, community room, and a community kitchen so we can offer cooking classes and allow people who have good products to produce them in our commercial kitchen and sell them in our store. Many of our customers have wonderful recipes and products, but because they are not produced in a commercial kitchen certified by the Health Department, we cannot sell them. There are so many people out there who would like to start their own business but cannot afford the cost of a commercial kitchen; therefore, they are unable to go ahead with their dream.

We have farmers who want to make fresh cheese for us and other people with great ideas and recipes! Even if we didn’t have a community kitchen or a community room to offer classes on cooking, nutrition and other things, the cost of rent around here is absolutely ridiculous! Even the TIF district on 251 is overpriced. The developers are unwilling to negotiate the price on the new plaza by Beef-A-Roo, even though it is entirely empty, except for Subway, and since most of the property on this side of town is owned by a select few individuals, we don’t have much room for negotiation. We have checked into a number of properties to lease or purchase.

After banging our heads against the wall for the past six months in preparation for our lease term to end May 31, I feel like I am no further now than I was when we started. That being said, would you, our customers, be willing to shop at our store if we purchase one of the buildings on Seventh Street located near JustGoods? I know what you are thinking—we said the same thing.

Mike Kearney, of JustGoods, has been trying to talk us into moving to Seventh Street for the past three years, and until now, we said, “No way.” But, after doing some investigating and spending a lot of time on Seventh Street at all hours of the day and evening for the past few months, I love it! I love the architecture of the buildings and the diversity of the neighborhood. The lofts that were put in by Zion Development are beautiful! The area is really coming back! It has cleaned up a LOT! Katie’s Cup is a happening place, and JustGoods is the best gift store in town. In fact, I did most of my Christmas shopping there last year, and always go there first when I need a gift.

We can purchase a building on Seventh Street with enough room to offer everything we ever wanted, and still have room for more. There are so many possibilities, and I am really excited about what we can do for our store and for the community. However, it is not going to be good for anybody if we go out of business; and if we lose all of you as customers, we will surely fail. Therefore, I would like you to vote yes or no if you would come to our store if we moved to Seventh Street just off State. It is a quick, easy trip from anywhere in town, with easy access off of State, 251 or Charles Street. Please take the survey at the following link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=p_2bw5uRWHWeHO_2ffcr1WPIzA_3d_3d. If you do not have time or do not want to complete a 10-question survey, please just e-mail me yes or no. Your opinion is very important!

Karen King, along with her husband Bob, owns Choices Natural Market, 6551 E. Riverside Blvd., Rockford. Hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday. Call (815) 282-1861 or visit www.choicesnaturalmarket.com for more info.

From the Aug. 19-25, 2009 issue

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